What Are the Duties and Qualifications of a Church Elder?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Church elders are crucial to the growth of the church, so what are the duties and responsibilities of a church elder?

Pastors are Elders

Church elders are crucial to the growth of the church, so what are the duties and responsibilities of a church elder? To start with, every pastor is an elder but not every elder is a pastor. For example, every Californian is an American but not every American is a Californian, so there are pastors/elders and then elders and then deacons. All of these men must be biblically qualified to be in church leadership, but God has not left us to guess work. He clearly defines what the qualifications are.Prayers for Pastors and Leaders

Above Reproach

It’s not just pastors, but elders and deacons also must “be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Neither can he be “a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). The elder “must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). These qualifications are much the same in Titus one, so twice in Scripture we are told the qualifications of elders so we don’t have to guess. If these character issues are not found in a person, they have no reason to be called into such an office as an elder. No drunkard, quarrelsome, money-loving, violent man could ever be an elder, not to mention a Christian.

Duties of Elders

Church elders are called by God and equipped to “teach and preach the Word” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9), protect the church from false teachers (Acts 20:17, 28–31), exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:13–17; Titus 1:9), visit the sick and pray (James 5:14; Acts 6:4), and judge doctrinal issues (Acts 15:6). In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church (16).  Our church has a pastor (actually two), elder’s and deacons and is based upon the New Testament church as found in the Book of Acts and the letters of the Apostle Paul (i.e. Eph 4).

Elder Responsibilities

We have read that the primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Timothy 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22), be involved in church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20), oversee the church (Acts 20:28) and to ordain others who are qualified (1 Timothy 3). Very often church elders do the “heavy lifting,” or the hard things that few others in the church would do. We must remember that it is God’s choice, not ours, and “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Elders rewards are not earthly but “from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24).

Called by God

God calls all of us, including pastors, elders and deacons, but He calls some to specific church offices.  The church I pastor at has the best church elder I have ever known.  He is amazing. He continually pours himself into serving the church and taking care of the church grounds and building.  He makes sure it’s cool in the summer for worship and warm in the winter.  Our elder (Ben) even sets up and pays for coffee  for Sunday school students…and he pays it out of his own pocket!  He’s first on the spot when there’s trouble, like when our church basement was flooding or when our AC went on the fritz. This past summer, he worked all week and then taught at Vacation Bible School all week long at night. He is amazing. His dedication and devotion to God and His people tells me exactly why God has placed him in this office. In fact, both our elders (Russ and Ben) are rock-solid in every way.

Placed by God

It wasn’t a human idea. God ordains men and women as deaconess to such a call. Never does a man of God choose to be an elder. It is God Who places those in the Body as He sees fit (Ephesians 4:1; Acts 20:28; 1). It was God’s choice to call and choose “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Ephesians 4:12). It is His decision and is best for His church and for us (Ephesains 4:12-13), and God has made a wonderful choice in placing Ben as our church elder. There are few, if any, men who I have a greater respect for.

Benefiting the Church

God calls pastors, elders, deacons and deaconess to help the church to grow in grace and knowledge, but also to protect what is taught in the church, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function” (Rom 12:4). The analogy of the church being a body is perfect because when one member suffers, all suffer (or at least should) as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:26. Just like if you hit your thumb with a hammer, the rest of the body is very much interested in the pain. Jesus as the Head of the church also feels our pain as the Head recognizes what’s going on with the Body (the church). Every one of us, church office or not, will be held accountable for what we do and don’t do. We are called to be helping others, serving others, and praying for others. The hand helps the foot when needed; the eyes see trouble to avoid that might hurt the body…and so on. God has great reason for selecting pastors, elders, deacons and deaconess. We must trust the process for it is Jesus’ church, not ours.


I pray you have already put your trust in the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. If you have not yet done so, then Jesus Christ has bad news for you on that last day where He will turn you away and from heaven and you will be forever in eternal torment in hell. This is exactly why I plead with you right now, even as you read this, and I prayed while writing this, that the reader would repent and put their trust in Jesus Christ. A failure to do so will ensure that you will face God’s judgment after death (Heb 9:27) or at the appearance of Jesus Christ (Rev 20:12-15), whichever of these occur first. Make today your day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). If you don’t, your heart will become harder and harder over time with each rejection of the gospel. The Author of Hebrews tells us to “not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness” (Heb 3:8). What happened to those in the wilderness could happen to you too.

Here is some related reading for you: What it Means for Elders, Overseers and Pastors to Live a Life Above Reproach

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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